New Jersey's Put Your Heart In A Book conference is on a much smaller scale (I'm horrible at estimating people, but I'd guess 200-400 attendees). And that is exactly what makes it so darn awesome.
I had lunch with NYT bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries. How, you might ask? By just sitting down at her table. Because that's the beauty of this conference - unfiltered access to authors, agents and editors. Went to an editor panel where they all invited attendees to pitch to them anytime during the weekend (except in the bathroom - they were pretty specific about that). So if you hadn't signed up for a pitch with one of them, a writer could hang around the hallway and wait to pitch without being seen as a stalker. For once.
I was able to have dinner with my editor, as well as a perfectly delightful fellow Carina Press author, K.A. Mitchell. I rubbed elbows/schmoozed/chatted with umpteen other big name authors, including Jade Lee and Mary Jo Putney. Was introduced to HQN senior editor Tara Parsons. Maybe one of these morsels of goodness would've happened at a big conference, but definitely not all of them.
Of course there were also fascinating workshops (3 hours with Susan Wiggs, behind-the-scenes tips from USA Today's Joyce Lamb), celebrations when three of my chapter mates won first place in the NJRWA contest, and the fun of a book signing. The late night pajama party gabfest with my friends, to be honest, would happen at any conference, big or small. My point is that even if you do attend the big romance cons like RT or RWA, put a smaller, local-ish conference on your calendar as well. The opportunities will astound you.
Posted by Christi Barth at 1:22 PM